The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation and the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s new scholarship program can be used to achieve a high school GED, a free associate degree or a low-cost bachelor’s degree.

EMPLOYEES AT 10 hotel companies will begin qualifying this month for new educational scholarships thanks to the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation and the American Hotel and Lodging Association, along with Pearson’s AcceleratED Pathways program. The pilot program aims to improve the quality of the industry’s labor pool as well as the lives of individual employees who participate.

The new scholarships are open to employees at the participating companies’ 1,500 properties who are pursuing higher education in any field. The program is an offshoot of AHLEF’s existing apprenticeship program and Empowering Youth Initiative. This money can be used to achieve a variety of educational goals, including a high school GED, a free associate degree or a low-cost bachelor’s degree.

The new programs aims to ease participation in existing tuition assistance benefit programs, and also offers participants personalized guidance, resources and additional support services.

“We could not do what we do without a strong, talented workforce,” said AHLA President and CEO Katherine Lugar. “Today’s announcement builds on a legacy of resources and training the hotel industry provides to our employees, and we are excited to give working adults in the hotel industry a more affordable and flexible education, and helping employers to attract and retain talent in the process.”

Studies of similar programs in other industries have shown they contribute to lower turnover rates and decreased training costs, as well as higher employee loyalty and increased levels of customer satisfaction. Pearson will help match participating employees with online degree programs at an accredited community college or university to complete an associate or bachelor’s degree. In many cases, employees can use existing college credits, and apprentices in AHLA’s apprenticeship program can also earn college credit.

Participating companies include Hersha Hospitality Management; New Castle Hotels & Resorts; The Osthoff Resort; OTO Development; The Nines Hotel; Pivot Hotels & Resorts; Davidson Hotel and Resorts; Pyramid Hotel Group; Red Roof Inns; TradeWinds Island Resorts; and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts.

“We must ensure that education is affordable, flexible and available to associates who are pursuing their degrees while at HHM,” HHM CEO Naveen Kakarla said. “We are proud to participate in this valuable partnership and believe that it will help HHM attract and retain the very best in our industry while allowing such individuals feel valued and empowered to enrich their careers and lives.”

Higher education is becoming more of a necessity in the modern hotel industry, said HHM’s Vice President of People Support Joann Weber. “The hotel industry is becoming increasingly more complex with changes in guest expectations, technology, financial and other demands, consolidation and branding, all requiring future leaders to prepare themselves for that future,” she said. “Providing an expedited pathway to earning a degree while working can only benefit us all.”

Weber also said the company has not yet rolled out the program so she does not have a number of employees who might participate.